Drone Surveillance Targets Illicit Actions

Department of Defence

RAAF personnel have helped to monitor and deter illegal ship-to-ship transfers of sanctioned goods into North Korea as part of Operation Argos.

Deployed to Kadena Air Force Base on the southern Japanese island of Okinawa, from February to March, the detachment supported Australia's contribution to enforcing United Nations Security Council (UNSC) sanctions against North Korea.

The sanctions are imposed to prevent North Korea from accessing materials to further develop its nuclear weapons program.

Operating the P-8A Poseidon, the 11 Squadron crew conducted maritime surveillance missions to monitor potentially illegal activities.

Detachment Commander Squadron Leader Jacqueline Killian said Operation Argos demonstrates Australia's continued commitment to security within the region.

"Since 2018, Australia has regularly deployed assets alongside partner nations, including Japan, the Republic of Korea and the United States, to enforce the UNSC sanctions," Squadron Leader Killian said.

"The denuclearisation of North Korea is a security goal that not only increases stability within the Indo-Pacific region but also globally.

"It's important that we continue to contribute with our partner nations in an effort to reach that goal."

Tactical coordinator Flight Lieutenant Bradley Jolly's primary responsibility was to ensure the Poseidon was used efficiently on missions to identify and gather evidence of illegal transfers of goods, such as petroleum and minerals.

"The Poseidon is a very advanced and versatile system. We have a range of sensors available to identify vessels of interest and determine their activities," Flight Lieutenant Jolly said during the operation.

"My job is to ensure we use the P-8A effectively so the sensor operators can gather as much information as possible, which we package up and send off the aircraft.

"The information we collect as a team helps to determine when, where and what vessels have been offloading cargo in breach of UNSC sanctions. Australia then reports this information to the United Nations Panel of Experts to help prevent future sanctions violations."

This was the first Operation Argos of 2023 and the 11th time an Australian maritime patrol aircraft has been deployed in support of the mission. The Royal Australian Navy has also deployed on Operation Argos eight times.

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